Fan video for Latyrx. Director: Joseph Ngo A 2002 Subversive Production
The sound you first heard on the Smootherness Mixtape was that of the Latyrx crew, consisting of Lateef the Truth Speaker, Lyrics Born, and featuring a collaboration with the beat savvy DJ Shadow. Lateef and Lyrics Born were hosts of the UC Davis radio station in the early 90’s. The group, with the enlisted help of Chief Xcel and The Gift of Gab, released Latyrx The Album in 1997. The effort received enormous praise in the underground community for its innovative and experimental sound.
On the Latyrx track (seen above), Lyrics Born and Lateef launch aggressively into the song with separate raps played simultaneously over the heavy dropping kit of DJ Shadow. The sound is grimey, electronic noise that emphasizes and never overpowers the incredible display of rhyming ability. Lyrics Born provides rhymes that are lucid and enrapturing. Born’s ability to string together complex syllables in the manner of seconds, all the while maintaining the annunciation* for the listener to maintain comprehension, is baffling. Lateef, as well, is no lightweight; his dark, menacing flow floats over deep hitting tracks like the Quickening (Wreckoning Part II). His abilities are hauntingly memorable. Together this duo of lyricists kill every minute of material produced. The album sounds years ahead of 1997.
With electronic and hip hop styles finding the inevitable fusion in today’s clubs, radio stations, and headphone jacks around the world, it is necessary to praise this group for staying nearly a decade ahead of the pack. This abstract sound is the innovative genius that makes hip hop the adaptive and deviant genre that it is today.
After their popular reception, the group split their separate ways. Two members: Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel went on to form Blackalicious. Lateef and Lyrics Born launched successful solo careers. And, Latyrx’s sophmore effort has yet to surface.
To help you understand the enormity of this album, here it is in its entirety.